Psalm 23: The Valley of the Shadow

By Dr. Norman Wise

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. –Psalm 23: 4

It is easy to live in a state of fear.

We can be afraid of not having enough money.
We can be afraid of losing friends and family.
We can be afraid of rejection and abandonment by others.
We can be afraid of failure.
We can be afraid of our children failing.
We can be afraid of illness.
We can be afraid of the future.
We can be afraid of dying.

What is it that your find yourself afraid of and that drives you to worry? What fear dominates your heart in the quiet of the night?

Life is a journey that can have mountain top experiences, calm level places of plenty, but also deep dark valleys of shadows and darkness. These are the low places of life where we seem to be losing thins precious to us. The way forward is dim and we are not sure there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Psalm 23 has proven to be for both Jews and Christians a source of comfort and strength during the deepest valleys of life. My mother read Psalm 23 every morning as a way to center herself in God’s love and commitment to us in Messiah/Christ Jesus. So I was raised in a home that saw this Psalm as critical to practical faith.

The outline of Psalm 23 shows it has two focus points.

In Psalm 23:1-4, David recognized God as his shepherd and supplier. David thanked the LORD for watching over him and supplying him with all he needed. David accepted God’s guidance in his life and protecting him from evil so that he always have a lifestyle aimed at righteousness because of the LORD’s great grace in being his life shepherd.

In Psalm 23:5-6, David acknowledged the LORD for protecting him from his adversaries by letting him conquer them and making him dwell in safety because of God’s great grace. .
Our focus today is on verse 4 of Psalm 23.

Having the Lord as our shepherd allows us to not fear evil. This means that we do not need to fear the devil, demons, worldly delusions, or inner wayward desires. Our good shepherd will overcome evil in all of its forms in our lives. There will be no pain without gain. All things will work for good for those who are sheep of Jesus the shepherd (see John 10).

It is the presence of the LORD that eases our fear even during the dark valleys of life. This presence comes to us in “rod” and “staff”.

What is the rod? The rod was what a shepherd relied on to safeguard both himself and his flock in danger. And it was, furthermore, the instrument he used to discipline and correct any wayward sheep that insisted on wandering away. The rod is the authority and power of King Jesus to defeat our foes and correct our souls.

What is the staff? The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges. No other single word can better describe its function on behalf of the flock than that it is for their “comfort.” With it he picks up sheep that are in need so that he can carry them close to keep them safe. It was used to gently guide sheep into the right path. In many ways the “staff” is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives..

Comfort comes because the LORD is involved in our lives and is actively engaged in daily guiding us and leading us to the right place. He cares for us and has compassion on us.

Are you going through a hard time? Are things “dark” in your life? Then remember today that you have a good shepherd. His name is Jesus. He has given HIS life for you. He will never leave you or forsake you. He understands what you fear and is greater than your fear.

Take comfort and find refuge in this truth so that you can become free from the tyranny of panic in your life. Turn to the LORD as your shepherd as you face the valleys. Amen

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